Jamaica Gleaner / As a child, I used to go with my family to hear the Jamaica Military Band play on Sunday afternoons at Hope Gardens. Paul Johnson has reassured me that the more than half-century-old tradition continues every third Sunday. He said the military band will offer a concert next Sunday, starting at 4 p.m., and you can expect delightful selections from the band’s repertoire of popular, classical, semi-classical and traditional Jamaican music.
Over the past month, I have attended three concerts by producers of much more recent vintage. The first of these was on October 12, when, inside the auditorium of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), the audience was introduced to Las Voces Melodosias (aka The Mico University Singers).
Matthew Silpot, music education officer in the ministry of education, who founded the group, said it performs music of many genres, including reggae, African, spirituals and Western art music, “all with a Jamaican sound”. He said the group, founded in 2013, was formed mainly for the university’s music specialists, but he has also invited also others in the institution who can sing well to join.
“We have about 25 members now at the university,” he said, “but at our first reunion concert in the Wolmer’s Boys’ School auditorium last year, we had 35 members performing. … . As of next year, we aim to stage annual concerts twice a year, in the summer and at Christmas.”
The dozen or so members who performed at the IOJ were not only singers. Some also played the piano, and one danced. But it was the harmonious, textured and energetic singing that roused the audience’s enthusiasm. They especially liked Silpot’s arrangement of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song , a medley of Jamaican folk songs and a Marley medley comprising No Woman Nuh Cry , Hit Me With Music and One Love .
Meanwhile, another free concert that takes place in the corporate area is the monthly lunch-hour concerts. Twenty-nine years ago, the then governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), G. Arthur Brown, started the free, monthly, last-Fridays lunch-hour concerts at the bank. On October 27, the Nexus Performing Arts Company (formed in 2001) was on stage and for about 80 minutes, the group delivered a dozen items.
VARIETY OF SONGS
They were pleasingly varied, and not only in the types of songs sung African, popular, religious, mento and reggae. There was variety in the groupings (solos, all-male or all-women); there was movement and dancing; and there was much interaction with the audience and continual light banter by the group’s founder and leader, Hugh Douse.
Among the many beautifully delivered, well-received songs by the company were the spiritual Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land , Peter Tosh’s Jah is My Keeper , a solo by Rebecca Mundle, Take My Hand Precious Lord , the male chorus’ What A Friend We Have in Jesus and the mento number, Dis Long Time Gal .
The National Gallery’s contribution is not to be left out. In April 2015 and 2016, Jamila Falak, then a student of the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, was awarded an Honours Recital for outstanding solo performance in voice. She was also learning to play the violin and double bass, and since graduating a year ago, she has been showing off her skills at various gigs.
On Sunday, she was at the National Gallery as the performer at the gallery’s free monthly ‘final Sundays’ performing-cum-fine arts show. With her easy, relaxed manner and flexible voice with its rich tone, she charmed her audience with all of her 10 songs.
They were jazz-influenced or Jamaican, and I was not surprised when, after her hour-long performance, she told me that her favourite musical forms were jazz and Jamaican tunes. Accompanied by O’Niel Dacres on keyboard and sometimes by herself on double bass, she sang Burt Bacharach’s Say a Little Prayer For Me , Adele’s When We Were Young , Alton Ellis’ Ain’t That Loving You , Beyonce’s Sandcastles and a Bob Marley medley, among other songs.